THE DOWNING CLIMATE PLAN
Recently, Massachusetts saw a climate bill finally signed into law. There was much to celebrate in the bill, but these policies should have been put in place long ago. Instead, the Baker Administration and state government has spent the past several years approaching climate change without the urgency it demands. State legislators dragged their feet to get it across the finish line. Governor Baker vetoed the original bill, delaying these essential reforms even further. All while our state, country, and planet are sqaundering the least renewable resource of all. Time.
Massachusetts deserves a Governor who understands the urgency of our changing climate and the myriad ways this issue intersects with every other major challenge we face — COVID, racial & economic justice, public health, transportation, housing, municipal budgets, agriculture & food security, immigration, and more. These are all climate issues. As a former state senator, I led efforts to build a clean energy economy, creating policies to require major utilities to buy clean energy and programs to train workers for jobs in the sector. Today those policies are bearing fruit throughout the region. I fought to divest our state pension funds from fossil fuels, create green jobs in environmental justice communities, and accelerate energy efficiency. After I term-limited myself and stepped down from office, I joined a leading renewable energy company to dedicate myself full-time to solving the climate crisis.
I bring to the fight against climate all my experience. My experience as a kid in Pittsfield, seeing what happens when industry sacrifices the environment and public health for short term gains. My experience as a parent, knowing Malcolm and Eamon aren’t guaranteed a safe, clean evironment. My experience as a clean energy business leader, seeing the potential of new technologies to help solve this problem. My experience as a climate leader in the State Senate, fighting for the policy to unlock that potential. In a Downing Administration there will be no question about if climate is a priority. It has been my priority, it will be my priority.
Please take a few minutes to read through my plan, and leave any feedback or suggestions in the comments below. It’s important to me that this campaign’s policy agenda is a living, breathing document. I want to hear from you about how you and your family experience these challenges, and what research, ideas, or innovations I should be sure to have on my radar. To stay engaged, click here to sign up for our email list. Let’s work together to build a fairer, stronger Massachusetts.
1. Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2030
Policy: Massachusetts will commit to meet 100% of electricity demand with clean energy by 2030.
Problem: Under current law, Massachusetts will hit 80% of electricity demand with clean energy by 2050. In the intervening 20 years, our state will deal with climate-induced flooding & storm increases, our Black & Brown residents will continue to bear the brunt of fossil fuel use, our families will pay some of the highest electricity and energy rates in the country, and our economy will remain badly exposed, at the tail-end of all national fossil fuel pipelines and infrastructure.
Action Plan: MA will set a bold goal of being the first state in the nation to 100% clean electricity. We will do that by, but not limited to, increasing the Renewable Portfolio & Clean Energy Standards, reducing bureaucratic delays that keep clean energy from connecting to the grid, and improving our energy efficiency programs. To meet this goal, the Downing Administration will commit to producing 1.5GW of clean electricity per year for the next decade.
2. Achieve 100% Clean Electricity by 2040
Policy: Massachusetts will commit to meet all non-electricity demand (heating, cooling and transportation) with clean energy by 2040.
Problem: Under current law, there is no specific timeline by which non-electricity sectors will be fossil fuel free. Under Governor Baker’s net-zero framework, fossil fuel emitters could continue to operate for decades to come.
Action Plan: Massachusetts will set an ambitious goal of transitioning all non-electricity sectors to 100% clean energy by 2040. This will require multiple initiatives in every sector and partnership between federal, state & local governments, the private sector, environmental advocates and residents. These efforts will include, but not be limited to: electric vehicle incentives and infrastructure build-out, the shifting of all public fleets to electric vehicles, investments in alternative technologies to thermal heating, and planning for large-scale adoption campaigns on all technologies.The Downing Administration will launch a Race to Zero program, creating a competition among municipalities for grants to support 100% clean energy by 2040.
3. Require 50% of climate spending directly benefit environmental justice communities
Policy: Massachusetts will make a comprehensive climate justice commitment, requiring that 50% of all climate spending directly benefits designated environmental justice communities and ensuring that climate & environmental policy reforms proactively address issues of equity, discrimination, and disproportionate harm.
Problem: For decades, if not centuries, Black and Brown residents of Massachusetts have born a disproportionate burden of fossil fuel use. Polluting infrastructure has been sited in poor communities, driving down air quality and driving up asthma, chronic heart disease and other related health outcomes. This has continued to be the case under the Baker Administration, which has pursued controversial projects from the Weymouth Compressor Station to the Palmer Biomass site and proposed East Boston substation. Pending state law may formally define environmental justice for the first time and ensure such considerations are taken during project applications, but to achieve equity a more proactive, comprehensive approach is required.
Action Plan: In a Downing Administration, Massachusetts will put equity at the center of its climate agenda, requiring that half of all state climate spending directly benefit environmental communities, through funding, job creation, MWhs produced, tax benefits, and other key metrics. In addition, we will pursue: enhanced enforcement of polluters via the Department of Environmental Protection; direct outreach campaigns with local partners to ensure adoption of state programs (including to landlords to ensure renter benefit); and the development of a MA Climate Corps to fill gaps in our current programs and market. An independent office of public engagement will be established at the Energy Facilities Siting Board, whose primary charge will be ensuring all EFSB processes achieve meaningful, accessible, and culturally-competent opportunities for public input and feedback. Regional EJ Outreach Teams, which the Baker Administration eliminated, will be re-established. Funds will again be set aside for brownfields/toxic remediation in EJ communities and state climate resilience funds will be subject to the 50% guarantee established above. Finally, recognizing that EJ communities disproportionately experience the intersectionality of climate and public transit, a Downing Administration will commit to having a fully electric fleet of buses in at least 20 EJ communities by 2024.
4. Undertake “Restructuring 3.0” to reform utilities & modernize grid
Policy: Massachusetts will undertake overarching utility reform and grid operation/modernization focused on achieving climate goals in the most cost-effective manner possible and using state rates & regulations to incentivize utilities towards a non-fossil fuel future.
Problem: Massachusetts’ current utility business model is not compatible with an urgent transition to a clean energy economy. Existing utility processes delay clean energy coming on to the grid, denying gas utilities a clear path to a non-fossil fuel future, while current state rates and regulations fail to incentivize the transition and guide the way.
Action Plan: Massachusetts will reform its utilities to make it crystal clear their purpose is to help our state lead the transition to a clean energy economy. We can do this while ensuring the utilities’ day-to-day functions of safely providing essential service remain intact and reducing overall costs for ratepayers. This will include centralizing procurement of clean energy resources at the state level, removing that function from utilities. Utility rates will be redesigned from the ground up to reflect the multiple values provided by clean energy, including public health, environmental and system benefits. Instead of taking the utilities’ word that a substation is needed, they will be required to put out the need to RFP, with priority given to responses using clean energy, efficiency
5. Create a climate impact mandate across state government
Policy: Every department within Massachusetts state government will have in its mission to consider and minimize the impact of their operations on climate change.
Problem: A siloed response to climate fails to match both the scale and intersectionality of this crisis. Previous Administrations have too often kept climate action within the confines of the Executive Office of Environmental & Energy Affairs, rather than undertaking a coordinated and interagency approach.
Action Plan: In a Downing Administration, each Executive Office and department will have a climate-specific mandate as part of its mission, ensuring climate is considered in things like transit budgets, zoning laws, public health regulations, and more. We will coordinate across all levels of government, with the private sector, non-profits, and more to ensure every policy is advancing an equitable, expeditious transition to a clean energy economy. State government will double down on the Leading by Example program and showcase how state office buildings and state-supported infrastructure can meet our goals. Along with the policy review, there will be similar coordination focused exclusively on implementing the climate-specific components of legislation to ensure policy potential is maximized. Finally, the Downing Administration will endorse, support and advocate for divesting all state-controlled pension funds from fossil fuel industries.
6. Maximize the economic benefit of a clean energy economy in Massachusetts
Policy: Massachusetts will maximize the transition to a clean energy economy to create new industries, companies and jobs. It will make the investments needed to keep opportunities local and maximize the economic benefit of all climate-related policies. Economic benefit will be prioritized for EJ communities and those displaced from fossil fuel industries.
Problem: The Baker Administration has ignored the economic benefits of climate action by failing to invest in the Mass Clean Energy Center, failing to create a climate industry ecosystem that will attract the innovative companies of the future, failing to prioritize local economic benefit in clean energy RFPs and more. Thousands of jobs can and will be created by the transition to a clean energy economy. However, if Massachusetts does not act intentionally, we will see those jobs outsourced, economically distressed communities left behind, and former fossil fuel workers asked to fend for themselves.
Action Plan: Massachusetts will make economic benefit a co-priority, along with cost, in the execution of all clean energy programs and awards. A Downing Administration will double Mass CEC’s budget and use those resources to invest in equity, justice and innovation in the clean energy industry across the state. Mass CEC will partner with local communities and community-based organizations to support the achievement of the 50% EJ guarantee. Clean Energy RFPs will take into greater consideration the economic benefits of various proposals, including partnership with EJ communities and organized labor. In addition, Mass CEC will partner with community colleges, unions, employers and Workforce Investment Boards to ensure the connection of fossil fuel employees with job opportunities in clean energy and training programs connected to existing jobs. Massachusetts will establish a Transitioning Energy Workers Bill of Rights to ensure retirement security, health benefit continuation and education support at all state community colleges and universities.